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Code of the treehopper

5 minutes

Searching for wives

12 minutes

Being 97

18 minutes

20 Hz

5 minutes

What do your dreams look like?

2 minutes

Aeon for Friends

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Coded vibrations and signal jamming – the secret language of the treehoppers

Treehoppers, a large family of insects found around the globe, live on plant branches, sucking nutrients from sap and frequently blending in with their surrounding to avoid the attention of predators. At first glance, the creatures appear rather boring as they stay relatively still and quiet much of the time, but scientists are learning that there’s much more to them than first meets the eye – or ear. By vibrating their torsos while grasping branches, treehoppers dispatch their own complex version of Morse code to warn of nearby predators, woo mates and even disrupt the signals of rivals. And treehoppers are hardly anomalous: tens of thousands of species of insects communicate using similar vibrations, meaning that there’s an entire universe of hidden animal communications we’re just beginning to understand. In this instalment of bioGraphic’s Invisible Nature series, the animator and filmmaker Flora Lichtman puts her inimitable style to evocative use, recreating the world of treehoppers with stunning tiny creations playfully animated.

Director: Flora Lichtman

Producer: Annette Heist

Websites: bioGraphic, Sweet Fern Productions

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Snap matchmaking: Indian expats seek the perfect picture to get a wife back home

In Singapore’s bustling Little India stands a small photography studio that specialises in helping young men – primarily migrant workers from India – find brides back home. The hundreds of portraits that cover the shop’s walls are testament to the hope that a just-right photo is the route towards a good marriage. Searching for Wives follows a charming truck-driver named Partha as he poses for his portrait to enchant a potential wife and, perhaps even more important, her family. In an era where seeking a match via a single photo and just a few bits of information has become commonplace, the Bhutanese filmmaker Zuki Juno Tobgye offers a rather different perspective on the intersection between technology and traditional arranged marriage.

Director: Zuki Juno Tobgye

Producer: Vigneswari Nagaraj

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An ageing philosopher returns to the essential question: ‘What is the point of it all?’

‘Being 97 has been an interesting experience.’

By the time of his death, the US philosopher Herbert Fingarette (1921-2018) had lived what most would consider a full and meaningful life. His marriage to his wife, Leslie, was long and happy. His career as professor of philosophy at the University of California, Santa Barbara was both accomplished and controversial – his book Heavy Drinking (1988), which challenged the popular understanding of alcoholism as a progressive disease, was met with criticism in the medical and academic communities. In a later book, Death: Philosophical Soundings (1999), Fingarette contemplated mortality, bringing him to a conclusion that echoed the Epicureans: in non-existence, there is nothing to fear. But as Being 97 makes evident, grappling with death can be quite different when the thoughts are personal rather than theoretical. Filmed during some of the final months of Fingarette’s life, the elegiac short documentary profiles the late philosopher as he reflects on life, loss, the many challenges of old age, and those lingering questions that might just be unanswerable.

Director: Andrew Hasse

Producer: Megan Brooks

Website: FTRMGC

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Magnetic and majestic: visualising the powerful storms hidden from human view

Violent plasma explosions from the Sun’s surface – known as coronal mass ejections – reverberate to the farthest reaches of our solar system. However, due to the Earth’s protective magnetosphere, most people don’t take note of these events unless a particularly powerful solar flare disrupts radio signals or produces colourful aurorae near the poles. Created as part of an art installation, this inventive, visceral short uses data collected from the University of Alberta’s CARISMA radio array to sonically and visually interpret a geomagnetic storm high in Earth’s atmosphere. Manifesting the data as a dynamic sculpture, the digital rendering captures the volatility of these usually unseen and unheard phenomena, hinting at their potentially destructive powers.

Directors: Ruth Jarman, Joe Gerhardt

Website: Semiconductor Films

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Chocolate, monsters and mothers – surreal glimpses of our most common dreams

While your dreams might feel strange or random, and unique to you (if you even remember them at all), an ongoing project by the US psychologist Kelly Bulkeley offers some insight into our most common dream experiences. Since 2009, Bulkeley has encouraged people around the world to submit the contents of their dreams to his searchable online Sleep and Dream Database, which has thus far collected accounts of some 30,000 dreams. This appropriately surreal short video imagines a composite dream as it divulges some of the fascinating insights from the database, including the food you’re most likely to encounter while sleeping (chocolate), and the person you’re most likely to come across (mother, of course).

Video by Kolja Haaf

Website: BBC Reel

Aeon for Friends

Find out more

Coded vibrations and signal jamming – the secret language of the treehoppers

Treehoppers, a large family of insects found around the globe, live on plant branches, sucking nutrients from sap and frequently blending in with their surrounding to avoid the attention of predators. At first glance, the creatures appear rather boring as they stay relatively still and quiet much of the time, but scientists are learning that there’s much more to them than first meets the eye – or ear. By vibrating their torsos while grasping branches, treehoppers dispatch their own complex version of Morse code to warn of nearby predators, woo mates and even disrupt the signals of rivals. And treehoppers are hardly anomalous: tens of thousands of species of insects communicate using similar vibrations, meaning that there’s an entire universe of hidden animal communications we’re just beginning to understand. In this instalment of bioGraphic’s Invisible Nature series, the animator and filmmaker Flora Lichtman puts her inimitable style to evocative use, recreating the world of treehoppers with stunning tiny creations playfully animated.

Director: Flora Lichtman

Producer: Annette Heist

Websites: bioGraphic, Sweet Fern Productions

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Essay/
Genetics
Hormones united

The hormone system works like a democracy: every tissue in the body is an endocrine organ asserting its needs and demands

Liam Drew

Essay/
History of Science
How to make mountains

In living memory, geologists believed that the Earth was slowly shrivelling, little guessing how vibrantly alive it truly is

Marcia Bjornerud